Coping Power Dissemination Study: Intervention and Special Education Effects on Academic Outcomes

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT:

This study examines whether a school-based preventive intervention for children with aggressive behavior affects children's academic outcomes when it is implemented by school counselors in a dissemination field trial. The Coping Power program targets empirical risk factors for aggressive behavior and focuses primarily on teaching social and emotional skills rather than directly intervening around academic performance. This study examined the long-term effects (2 years postintervention) of Coping Power on language arts and mathematics grades in 531 children from 57 schools. Prior analyses found that students of counselors who received intensive training in how to implement Coping Power (CP-IT) had broad improvements in teacher-rated social and academic skills and in teacher-, parent-, and self-reported externalizing behavior problems in comparison to children in a control group and to children whose counselor received more basic training in Coping Power (Lochman et al., 2009). In the present study, students with CP-IT counselors had smaller declines in language arts grades through a 2-year follow-up than children in the control group. Significant effects of CP-IT on mathematics grades were not observed. Special education status did not moderate intervention effects, indicating that special education students' academic outcomes were affected in similar ways by the intervention in comparison with students not in special education. Intervention effects were not evident for children who had basic-trained counselors. These findings have implications for educational policy and underscore the potential for school-based social-emotional interventions such as Coping Power to have a long-term impact on children's academic outcomes.

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* Schools provide a valuable setting in which to implement prevention and intervention programming for children with disruptive behavior problems (Owens et al., 2005). Children who are at risk for disruptive behavior problems can be identified at early ages in school settings (Essex et al., 2009), and there are fewer barriers to service use in school versus clinic-based settings (Brown & Bolen, 2008). A substantial body of research has documented that disruptive behavior problems often co-occur with poor academic functioning and lower levels of school connectedness (Bennett, Brown, Boyle, Racine, & Offord, 2003; Bradshaw, Buckley, & lalongo, 2008; Farrington, 1989; Malecki & Elliot, 2002; Najaka, Gottfredson, & Wilson 2001; Trzesniewski, Moffitt, Caspi, Taylor, & Maughan, 2006). Poor academic grades in the middle school years are among the strongest predictors of students' subsequent dropout from school and failure to graduate (Balfanz, Herzog & Maclver, 2007; Bowers, 2010), which in turn affects students' likelihood for adequate occupational and life adjustment (Bowers, 2007). Teacher-assigned grades have been found to be a more potent predictor of school failure than are standardized achievement test scores (Balfanz et al., 2010). Given schools' focus on academic instruction and the importance of academic skills to children's overall development (Dubow, Huesmann, Boxer, Pulkkinen, & Kokko, 2006; Masten, Desjardins, McCormick, Kuo, & Long, 2010), it is crucial to understand how prevention and intervention programs for children with disruptive behavior problems affect children's academic functioning.

Special Education and Academic Outcomes

Children with substantial emotional and behavioral problems and other disabilities are typically placed into self-contained, resource and consultative special education services in their schools (Wagner, 1995). One of the 11 categories of disability in federal special education law is serious emotional disturbance (SED), and externalizing behaviors are especially prevalent among children with the SED classification (Wagner, 1995). Children with SED typically begin having trouble with their behavior in the grade school years (Marden & Cox, 1991) and have increasing levels of conflict with family and peers as they develop (Smith, Lochman, & Daunic, 2005). …